Teenager's Murder Highlights Dangers of Facebook
Internet Predator Takes Advantage of Online Anonymity
By Shane Clarke
Do you know who all your “friends” are on Facebook?Let me ask again: Do you REALLY know who all your “friends” are on Facebook?If you can answer yes with 100% confidence then well done – you obviously have some degree of online savvy. I wish everyone could be so wise.You see – on the internet, we can be whoever we want to be. For instance, if I wanted to, I could be a 16 year old hunk named Steve Actionman, with blonde hair, a tan, and a washboard abdomen, instead of the grumpy, middle-aged git with a paunch that I really am. The internet is a place where we can live out our fantasies, and be the person we wish we were, thanks to websites like Second Life, and the booming industry of online role-playing games.Unfortunately, some people’s fantasies are far more sinister and disturbing than wanting to be a dashing knight who rescues a fair maiden. For some, this online fantasy world is an ideal hunting ground where they can snare vulnerable people and live out their own sick, twisted fantasies.One such predator is Peter Chapman, a 33 year old convicted sex offender from County Durham, in the north-east of England. Chapman is a serial sex offender who, from the age of 15, has been the subject of numerous sexual assault investigations. In 1996, he was jailed for raping 2 prostitutes at knifepoint.In 2009, this bald pervert with glasses and a face that, frankly, only a mother or a Dachshund could love, magically transformed into Peter Cartwright, a 19-year-old hunk of a man whose place in a boyband was surely only a whisper away. Such is the power of the internet.17-year-old Ashleigh Hall visited Peter’s Facebook page and was attracted to the pictures displayed of a bare-chested young man – Chapman’s avatar, if you will. They became “friends” in October 2009, and they arranged to meet just a few weeks later.At the end of October, Ashleigh told her parents she was going to stay with a friend, and she left her home for the last time. Like Alice in Wonderland, she left her own world and entered the crazy world of another’s imagination.Needless to say, at first sight of Chapman she would know she had been duped and would make a swift exit. He knew this, so he invented another character for this dreamworld – Mr Cartwright, young Peter’s father. Text messages on Ashleigh’s mobile phone reveal that she was expecting Mr Cartwright to pick her up. This was all part of Chapman’s calculated, twisted plan to get Ashleigh into his car so he could overpower her.Prosecutor Graham Reeds QC said, “He needed a plan which made it more likely that she would get into his car so he could overpower her for sex.“Having invented 19-year-old Peter to make contact with girls, he now decided to invent Peter’s dad in order to persuade Ashleigh that it was safe to get into his car.“The plan he devised was calculated and wicked and it worked.”Mr Reeds went on to tell the court how Chapman, pretending to be young Peter’s father, texted Ashleigh, saying, “Hi hun it’s petes dad are you sure you don’t mind me picking you up? Pete is really looking forward to seeing you and yes its okay for you to stay.”Ashleigh replied, “No its fine I dnt mind I trust him so I trust u and thank u.”Chapman picked Ashleigh up and took her to Thorpe Larches, near Sedgefield, in the north-east of England. There, he raped her, and then bound her arms before putting more tape on her face which suffocated her to death.Chapman was arrested the next day for a totally unrelated matter. As a convicted sex offender he is registered on the UK’s list of sex offenders. This means that he has certain obligations, such as informing the police if he changes address, and also reporting to the police at certain times. He had breached one of the rules so was brought in for questioning.During the interview, he repeatedly told officers that they could, “Crush my car”. However, it seems he lost his nerve and told one stunned custody officer, “I killed someone last night.” He then led the police to the spot where he had dumped her body, almost 24 hours after she had left the family home.So, I ask one last time: Do you REALLY know who all your “friends” are on Facebook?
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Shane Clarke serves as London Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He has been involved in humanitarian work for numerous years. He’s also a freelance management consultant. Having completed an honors degree in Law at Wolverhampton University, he then moved on to an MBA at Warwick Business School. He’s heavily involved in the fight against international parental child abduction to Japan.